January 1 Cattle on Feed Report

The latest cattle on feed report showed the total number of cattle on feed was 8.3 percent higher on Jan. 1 2018 than it was on New year’s day in 2017. In total, 11.5 million head of cattle were in feedlots. This is the largest January 1 total since 2012.

Placements of lightweight cattle continued to outpace year-ago levels during December of 2017. The total number of cattle placed into feedlots was up by 0.8 percent over December 2016 levels. However, a deeper look at this number shows that cattle weighing less than 600 pounds were the primary driver of the increase. The number of cattle placed weighing more than 600 pounds was about 21,000 head below a year ago levels. However, placements of cattle weighing less than 600 pounds increased by 35,000 head. This was an eight percent increase for that weight class over December of 2016 and it continues the trend of larger placements of lightweight cattle that we’ve seen over the past few months. Placements of cattle under 600 pounds were 20 percent larger in the fourth quarter of 2017 than during the fourth quarter of 2016. Poor winter grazing conditions are a primary reason that cattle are coming to feedlots earlier and lighter that might normally happen.

Marketings were either down or up depending on how you look at the numbers. The report shows that marketings were 1.4 percent lower than during December of 2016. This was in line with pre-report expectations. However, there was one less business day during December 2017 than in 2016. So daily average marketings were actually higher than a year ago. On a daily average, marketings were greater than 2016 for every month of 2017. The marketing rate remains important as the increased supplies continue. 

Also in this report was the breakdown on the inventories of steers and heifers. The inventory of steers in feedlots is 4.5 percent higher than a year ago. The inventory of heifers is almost 16 percent higher than a year ago. This implies that a slowdown in heifer retention has occurred. However, the percentage of heifers in the feedlot mix doesn’t yet rise to the level that might suggest herd contraction is in the near future.

Next week I’ll discuss the annual January 1 cattle inventory report that will be released on January 31st.